Setu channel passage a nautical folly: Capt. Balakrishnan
Here’s a remarkable mariner’s perspective. The Setusamudram project which assumes 60% revenue from vessels on foreign trade routes is a nautical folly, says Capt. Balakrishnan, I.N., because navigation from Aden to Singapore or from Muscat to Chittagong, will result in a saving of between about $ 50k to $60k, if a vessel circumnavigates Srilanka instead of using the proposed channel passage.
This fundamental statistic so brilliantly highlighted by Capt. Balakrishnan nails the Setu channel project as an economic hoax played out on gullible citizens of India, while wasting taxpayers’ money for a bad dream, a dream not thought through in rational, economic/financial terms.
Add to this the nightmare of salvage operations of a ship if it gets grounded by high waves in the mid-ocean channel passage. In Suez canal and Panama canal which are land-based canals, effective salvage operational procedures are in place. No mariner will risk his vessel through a channel with no salvage facilities.
If there are no foreign mariners enthused by the channel passage, the Setu channel project will be a sick-unit from day one. Let us hope that the biased review committee listens to reason, powerful statistics governed by the dictum: ‘there ain’t no free lunch’ even for a dream of Tamilagam becoming a vallaras’u. It should be Bharatam that should become mahaan taking Srilanka as a partner in abhyudayam, in a hindumahasagar parivaar (Indian Ocean Community).
FOREIGN TRADE AND THE SSCP – PART – 1
TIME AND DISTANCE CALCULATIONS- NAVIGATING AROUND SRI LANKA AND THROUGH SSCP – PASSAGES FROM MUSCAT AND ADEN TO CHITTAGONG/ SINGAPORE
By CAPT (RETD) H.Balakrishnan, I.N.
1. The Detailed Project Report (DPR), of the SSCP, states all vessels up to 20,000 DWT, about 75 % of 30,000 DWT, 10% of 40,000 DWT vessels and 5% of 50,000 DWT vessels will be able to use the canal. Also, all empty vessels (in ballast) can pass through the canal.
2. The DPR, highlighting other USPs of the SSCP, anticipates that from the very first year of its operation, 60% of its revenue will accrue from vessels plying on foreign trade routes.
3. In an earlier series of analysis of the SSCP, published in the media, the nautical viability of the SSCP, from the Indian coastal trade standpoint had been analysed. This paper analyses the same issue from the foreign sea trade point of view. Two voyages have been chosen, where a ship has the option of either circumnavigating Sri Lanka or navigating through the SSCP.
DISTANCES (in nautical miles- nm)- AROUND SRI LANKA
(A) Muscat to Chittagong = 2973 nm
(B) Aden to Singapore = 3631 nm
(NB: Distances taken from Admiralty Distance Tables)
4. DISTANCES – MUSCAT – SSCP – CHITTAGONG
(A) Muscat to SSCP = 1625 nm
(B) SSCP length = 84 nm
(C ) SSCP to Chittagong = 1050 nm
(D) Total Distance = (A) + (B) + (C) = 2759 nm
5. DISTANCES – ADEN – SSCP – SINGAPORE
(A) Aden to SSCP = 2020 nm
(B) SSCP length = 84 nm
( C) SSCP to Singapore = 1590 nm
(D) Total Distance = (A) + (B) + (C) = 3694nm
6. SAILING TIME – MUSCAT TO CHITTAGONG AROUND SRI LANKA
(A) @ 12 knots = 247.8h
(B) @ 15 knots = 198.2h
7. SAILING TIME -MUSCAT TO CHITTAGONG VIA SSCP
8. Muscat to SSCP
(A) @ 12 knots = 1625/12 = 135.4h
(B) @ 15 knots = 1625/15 = 108.3h
(A) @ 6 knots = 84/6 = 14h
(B) @ 8 knots = 84/8 = 10.5h
10. SSCP to Chittagong
(A) @ 12 knots = 1050/12 = 87.5h
(B) @ 15 knots = 1050/15 = 70h
11. Total time taken
(A) @ 12 knots and 6 knots = 135.4+14+87.5 = 236.9h
(B) @ 12 knots and 8 knots = 135.4+10.5+87.5 = 233.4h
(C )@ 15 knots and 6 knots = 108.3+14+70 = 192.3h
(D) @ 15 knots and 8 knots = 108.3+10.5+70 = 188.8h
12. SAILING TIME – ADEN TO SINGAPORE AROUND SRI LANKA
(A) @ 12 knots = 302.6h
(B) @15 knots = 242.1h
13. SAILING TIME – ADEN TO SINGAPORE VIA SSCP
14. Aden to SSCP
(A) @ 12 knots = 2020/12 = 168.3h
(B) @ 15 knots = 2020/15 = 134.7h
(A) @ 6 knots = 14h
(B) @ 8 knots = 10.5h
16. SSCP to Singapore
(A) @ 12 knots = 1590/12 = 132.5h
(B) @ 15 knots = 1590/15 = 106.0h
17. Total time taken
(A) @ 12 knots and 6 knots = 168.3+14+132.5 = 314.8h
(B) @ 12 knots and 8 knots = 168.3+10.5+132.5 = 311.3h
(C )@ 15 knots and 6 knots = 134.7+14+106.0 = 254.7h
(D) @ 15 knots and 8 knots = 134.7+10.5+106.0 = 251.2h
(N.B. The foregoing distances above have been derived from actual plotting on navigational charts.)
18. Additional Time For Passage Planning For purposes of embarkation/disembarkation of ‘Pilot’, manoeuvering of engines in the SSCP, as also for any delays in embarkation of ‘Pilot’- ADD = 2 hours (at the minimum) to all the passage times indicated above.
19. From the foregoing calculations, the following deductions can be arrived at:
(A) The difference in time taken to reach Chittagong from Muscat, circumnavigating Sri Lanka and navigating through the SSCP at speeds of 12 and 6 knots is = 8.9h
(B) The difference in time taken to reach Chittagong from Muscat, circumnavigating Sri Lanka and navigating through the SSCP at speeds of 12 and 8 knots is = 12.4h
(C) The difference in time taken to reach Chittagong from Muscat, circumnavigating Sri Lanka and navigating through the SSCP at speeds of 15 and 6 knots is = 3.9h
(D) The difference in time taken to reach Chittagong from Muscat, circumnavigating Sri Lanka and navigating through the SSCP at speeds of 15 and 8 knots is = 7.4h
(E) The difference in time taken to reach Singapore from Aden circumnavigating Sri Lanka and navigating through the SSCP at speeds of 12 and 6 knots is = ” – 14.2h” ( NOTE: THIS IS ON ACCOUNT OF THE FACT THAT THE VOYAGE DISTANCE INCREASES BY 63nm BY TRANSITING THROUGH THE SSCP!!
(F) The difference in time taken to reach Singapore from Aden circumnavigating Sri Lanka and navigating through the SSCP at speeds of 15 and 8 knots is = ” – 11.1h”
(G) Comment: The deductions in voyage time between Aden and Singapore implies that SHIPPING TRAFFIC ORIGINATING FROM EUROPEAN/MEDITERRENEAN/RED SEA PORTS AND BOUND FOR THE FAR-EAST WILL BYPASS THE SSCP AND CIRCUMNAVIGATE SRI LANKA. THE SAME HOLDS TRUE FOR TRAFFIC ORIGINATING FROM PORTS IN THE HORN OF AFRICA/EAST AFRICA. A SIZEABLE SLICE OF GLOBAL SHIPPING TRAFFIC!!
(H) While there is a nominal savings in distance navigating through the SSCP,this does not automatically translate into commensurate savings in time, on account of the ‘slow speeds’ required to navigate through the SSCP. This is on account of a phenomenon termed ‘SHALLOW WATER EFFECT’, or, ‘SQUAT EFFECT’, where the ship’s propellers tend to seek the sea bottom while proceeding at High Speeds in shallow waters. The SSCP is to have a dredged depth of 12 meters and can be used by ships having a draught of upto 10.7 meters. Thus the difference between the ship’s keel and the sea bottom will be 12.0-10.7=1.3 metres. This explains the necessity for ‘slow speeds’ through the SSCP.
(I) It is mandatory for ships using the SSCP to embark a ‘pilot’. In the calculations above, at a conservative estimate, a time 2 hours has been added to passage time calculations. Under actual conditions, this time may be more than the 2 hours. All the major ports of India suffer from a shortage of ‘pilots’. Therefore, the SSCP is also likely to suffer from this prevailing malaise. It is therefore appreciated that vessels arriving at the ‘pilot boarding grounds’ at the SSCP may have to anchor and await ‘pilot boarding’. In this light, it would further tend reduce the difference in time between circumnavigating Sri Lanka and using the SSCP.
The foregoing calculations, from first principles, clearly highlight the non-viability of the SSCP, for foreign trade vessels.
FOREIGN TRADE AND THE SSCP – PART – 2 COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS
By Capt (Retd) H.Balakrishnan, I.N.
1. The official project paper of the SSCP states that the estimated
investment of Rs. 2400 crores will ” earn an operating profit from its very FIRST YEAR of operation and that the capital will be recovered with 9% interest WITHIN THE FIRST 25 YEARS after which THERE WILL BE A MAMMOTH PROFIT GENERATION in the next 25 years”. However, according to reports appearing in sections of the media, the cost of the Project has already escalated to Rs. 4000/- crores, and the shipping channel is nowhere near completion!!
2. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) admits that given the
existing fleet in the world, and the vessels under order, ‘the future trend is for larger size vessels’. However, it analyses details of worldwide container vessels fleet in the Clarkson’s Register (figures for April 2002) and says there has also been an annual increase of about 5% in the number of vessels of size up to 30,000 DWT. Also, it optimistically posits a theory that there can actually be a growth in the number of ships built specifically for the purpose of passing through the Sethu canal.
3. However, the DPR does not appear to have taken into
consideration a U.S. programme known as “Container Security
Initiative” (CSI), in the post 9/11 period . In the words of Vice Admiral
(retd) A.K. Singh, former Flag Officer, Commanding – in – Chief,
Eastern Naval Command as also the former DG Coast Guard, ” The
CSI compliant & efficient deep water port of Colombo is in close
proximity to Tuticorin, and, almost in the direct route for
West/East bound international shipping .Since India has no CSI
compliant port yet ( JNPT has been earmarked, but is not
ready/cleared yet), we lose a lot of money in sending our USA
bound seaborne containers to CSI compliant Colombo & Dubai
ports.” CSI requires the stationing of five U.S. Customs officials in
our ports from where containers are shipped to the U.S.A. Given the
realities of the current Indian scenario, main line container vessels will
not call at our ports.
4. However the major revenue earner for the SSCP will be the ships
that navigate through the channel. The DPR anticipates a major portion
of this earning to accrue from foreign trade vessels.
5. This paper analyses the cost benefits that accrue to the ships
engaged in foreign trade and navigating through the Sethusamudram Channel.
ESTIMATE OF SHIPS THAT WILL ANVIGATE THROUGH THE SETHUSAMUDRAM CANAL
6. According to the consultants for the SSCP, the number of
ships that are expected to navigate through the SSC is 3055 in 2008 and 7141 in 2025.
7. In an earlier analysis, it was appreciated that at the most, it
may be possible that 1000 vessels would use the SSC annually, though this figure may not be realized, and is nowhere near the projected 3055 vessels in 2008. This is on account of the fact that global shipping trends are towards larger vessels of 60,000 DWT and above, and the SSC being restricted to vessels of 30,000 DWT- 34,000 DWT, with a draught limitation of 10.7 Metres.
8. It had earlier been appreciated that the ‘pilotage rates’ that would be charged for every ship availing of the SSC would be RUPEES TWENTY LAKHS AND FORTY THOUSAND (at a very conservative estimate ), for the Sethsamudram Corporation to ‘break even’. In U.S. Dollar terms this works out to $ 55,979.64 (at an exchange rate of $ 1 = Rs 39.30 as on 22 OCT 2007)
FUEL COSTS FOR VOYAGE – MUSCAT TO CHITTAGONG AND ADEN TO SINGAPORE – AROUND SRI LANKA/ SSCP
9. Vessels use Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO). The cost of 1 Metric Tonne (MT) of HFO as per prevailing price at Singapore on 19 OCT 2007 =$462/M.T.
10. VOYAGE – MUSCAT TO CHITTAGONG
(a) Distance Muscat to Chittagong around Sri Lanka = 2973 nm
(b) Distance Muscat to Chittagong via SSCP = 2759 nm
(c )Time taken at 12 knots for (a) above = 247.8h
(d) Time taken at 15 knots for (a) above = 198.2 h
(e) Time taken at 12 and 6 knots for (b) above = 236.9 h
(f) Time taken at 12 and 8 knots for (b) above = 233.4 h
(g) Time taken at 15 and 6 knots for (b) above = 192.3 h
(h) Time taken at 15 and 8 knots for (b) above = 188.8 h
11. Fuel consumption rate for these vessels is = 1 MT/h
12. Thus, total voyage fuel consumption will be as follows:
(a) For Para 10 (c) above = 247.8 MT
(b) For Para 14 (d) above = 198.2 MT
(C ) For Para 14 (e) above = 236.9 MT
(d) For Para 14 (f) above = 233.4 MT
(e) For Para 14 (g) above = 192.3 MT
(f) For Para 14 (h) above = 188.8 MT
13. Total voyage fuel costs
(a) Para 12 (a) above = $ 462 X 247.8 = $ 1,14,483.60
(b) Para 12 (b) above = $ 462 X 198.2 = $ 91,568.40
(c) Para 12 (c ) above =$ 462 X 236.9 = $ 1,09,447.80
(d) Para 12 (d) above = $ 462 X 233.4 = $ 1,07,830.80
(e) Para 12 (e) above = $ 462 X 192.3 = $ 88, 842.60
(f) Para 12 (f) above = $ 462 X 188.8 = $ 87,225.60
14. Total voyage costs including pilotage and allied costs. In addition to the foregoing, pilotage and other allied charges as at Para 8 above have to be added to the values at Paras 13 (c ) to 13 (f). Thus the total costs will work out as follows:
(a) $ 1,09,447.80 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,65,427.44
(b) $ 1,07,830.80 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,63,810.44
(c) $ 88,842.60 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,44,822.24
(d) $ 87,225.60 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,43,205.24
15. Voyage – Aden to Singapore
(a) Distance Aden to Singapore around Sri Lanka = 3631nm
(b) Distance Aden to Singapore via SSCP = 3694 nm
(c) Time taken at 12 knots for (a) above = 302.6h
(d) Time taken at 15 knots for (a) above = 242.1h
(e) Time taken at 12 and 6 knots for (b) above = 314.8
(f) Time taken at 12 and 8 knots for (b) above = 311.3
(g) Time taken at 15 and 6 knots for (b) above = 254.7
(h) Time taken at 15 and 8 knots for (b) above = 251.2h
16. Thus, total fuel consumption for the voyage will be as follows:
(a) For 15 (c ) above = 302.6 MT
(b) For 15 (d) above = 242.1 MT
(c )For 15 (e) above = 314.8 MT
(d) For 15 (f) above = 311.3 MT
(e) For 15 (g) above = 254.7 MT
(f) For 15 (h) above = 251.2 MT
17. Total Voyage Fuel Costs.
(a) For Para 16 (a) above = $ 462 X 302.6 = $ 1,39,801.20
(b) For Para 16 (b) above = $ 462 X 242.1 = $ 1,11,850.20
(c) For Para 16 (c )above = $ 462 X 314.8 = $ 1,45,437.60
(d) For Para 16 (d) above = $ 462 X 311.3 = $ 1,43,820.60
(e) For Para 16 (e) above = $ 462 X 254.7 = $ 1,17,671.40
(f) For Para 20 (f) above = $ 462 X 251.2 = $ 1,16,054.40
18. Total Voyage Costs Including Plotage and Allied Costs. The total voyage costs work out as follows:
(a) $ 1,45,437.60 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 2,01,417.24
(b) $ 1,43,820.60 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,99,800.24
(c) $ 1,17,671.40 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,73,651.04
(d) $ 1,16,054.40 + $ 55,979.64 = $ 1,72,034.04
(Note: Many ocean going vessels use a combination of HFO for the ocean passage, and Motor Diesel Oil (MDO) for manoeuvering engines in restricted waters, like the SSCP. The Singapore rate for MDO/MT as on, 19 OCT 2007, was $ 715.00. This would further increase the ‘total voyage costs. For the purposes of this paper, only HFO is being taken as the basis for the calculations.)
19. Voyage – Muscat to Chittagong around Sri Lanka/ via SSCP: It is ‘MORE COST EFFECTIVE’ to CIRCUMNAVIGATE Sri Lanka, than routing through the SSC by amounts ranging from $50,943.80, TO, $51,636.84
20. Voyage – Aden to Singapore around Sri Lanka/via SSCP: It is ‘MORE COST EFFECTIVE’ to CIRCUMNAVIGATE Sri Lanka than routing through the SSC by amounts ranging from $ 61,616.24, TO, $ 60,183.80
21. The foregoing calculations have clearly highlighted the economic non-viability of the SSCP for ships engaged in foreign trade. The earlier analysis had also brought out the same results for the Indian coastal trade vessels. It is safe to conclude that the SSCP is a drain of Rs. 4000/- crores on the public exchequer
22. It had earlier been stated that ” THE SETHUSAMUDRAM CANAL PROJECT JUST DOES NOT MAKE ‘NAUTICAL SENSE “.
23. It can now be asserted that ” THE SETHUSAMUDRAM CANAL PROJECT IS A NAUTICAL FOLLY “.